Christmas takings in pubs, bars and restaurants fall almost 80%

Takings in pubs, bars and restaurants plunged by almost 80% between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day compared with the same three-day period last year, suggesting the hospitality industry’s dire predictions about their worst Christmas ever have come to pass.

Total sales during the period slumped by 79.4% compared with last year, with food sales down 64% and drinks takings 84% lower, as the majority of UK venues were forced to close because of the tiered system of coronavirus restrictions.

Boxing Day was worse than Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, with sales down 88%, according to figures from more than 2,000 hospitality venues compiled by S4Labour, which provides staff management software for hospitality businesses.

“This unpredictable year has ended in very suppressed Christmas sales due to ever increasing Covid restrictions, and it’s not looking likely to change for a while yet,” said S4Labour’s chief product officer Richard Hartley.

The figures only relate to about 2,000 venues that the company works with, which include restaurants.

But the disproportionate impact on drinks sales is particularly ominous for the already beleaguered pub sector.

So-called “wet-led” pubs, which do not serve food, have been particularly hard hit because they and have not benefited from a VAT cut on meals or the chancellor’s “eat out to help out” scheme.

Pubs previously have warned of a £650m drop in sales during December, which typically accounts for a quarter of annual profits owing to office parties, family lunches and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The loss of so much trade has stoked fears that swathes of the UK’s pub industry, which employs 600,000 people, could be lost for good.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said it expects the UK’s 47,200 pubs to serve 5m fewer Christmas dinners and 39m fewer pints over the festive period compared with last year.

The BBPA is expected to publish its own sales data for the industry early in the new year.

Pubs would usually have one of their most lucrative weeks of the year over Christmas but 85% were closed or unable to trade viably because they are outside tier 1, according to the BBPA.

The industry has repeatedly called for more targeted financial support from the government, citing the greater degree of restrictions imposed on hospitality than on other sectors such as retail.


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